Significance of High-Quality Physical Education Teachers


  • Catherine E. Cardina Buffalo State College
  • Alisa R. James The College at Brockport



Teacher certification, academic major, physical education teachers, teacher education, beginning teachers


This study investigated the extent to which public school K–12 staff in the United States teaching physical education were certified in physical education and had an academic major in physical education during the 2015–2016 school year. Data were collected from a nationally representative sample of public school teachers in the United States. Descriptive statistics were used in the description of physical education teachers’ certification and academic major. These characteristics were investigated with regard to school grade level, census region, urbanicity, and newly hired. Results showed that over 30% of public high school physical education teachers did not have an undergraduate or graduate degree in physical education. Nearly 20% of physical education teachers were not certified in physical education. Furthermore, less than 70% of physical education teachers had both characteristics of a qualified teacher. Results from this study show the need for an increase in the percentage of high-quality physical education teachers who have both teaching certification and an academic major in physical education, which would positively impact public health in the United States.

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Author Biographies

Catherine E. Cardina, Buffalo State College

Catherine Cardina is a former elementary and secondary physical education teacher and is a permanently certified PE and Health teacher in New York State. Currently, she is an associate professor teaching primarily in the Health and Wellness Program in the Department of Health, Nutrition, and Dietetics at Buffalo State College. 

Alisa R. James, The College at Brockport

Alisa James is a professor in physical education and former program coordinator in the Physical Education Teacher Education program at The College at Brockport, State University of New York. She is also the Associate Dean of the School of Education, Health and Human Services at The College at Brockport.